3 Examples of Smaller Cities Staying ‘Recruiting Relevant’ By Offering Student Loan Assistance

One of the biggest underlying trends in America today is the urban/rural divide. A lack of opportunities in smaller cities, towns and rural areas – coupled with a skyrocketing amount of student debt – drives new graduates and young professionals into big cities, with the lure of more jobs and higher incomes. That then leaves those smaller cities stuck in a ‘brain drain’ loop, of losing workers, which makes the areas look less attractive for job prospects, which prompts even more people to leave.

But those big cities have their challenges, too. Places like San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C., regularly rank among the most expensive metro areas in the country, where the costs of housing and living have become prohibitively expensive for those same grads and young professionals struggling to make ends meet – including paying off their loans. The median home value across the country is $225,300; in Miami it’s $304,300. Cities on that level regularly come with significantly higher price tags than the national average.

And therein lies the opportunity for employers in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis or Indianapolis. Would-be employees being priced out of the biggest cities need student loan relief. Employers in comparatively smaller cities, ones with historically stagnant rates of population and job growth, can now lean on a benefit like student loan assistance to bring droves of debt-saddled workers back into town – and into their workforce.

Here are three places where we’re seeing this play out across the country right now.

St. Clair County, Michigan

The Come Home Award is a scholarship program aimed at former St. Clair County residents who have graduated with science, tech, engineering, art or math degrees but no longer reside in this Michigan area. As the name suggests, the scholarship fund offers up to $15,000 in student loan assistance for former residents as an incentive for them to come back home, and live and work in St. Clair County.

Hamilton, Ohio

Forty minutes outside of Cincinnati, the city of Hamilton, Ohio provides a Talent Attraction Program scholarship for graduates with student debt to live and work either in town or the surrounding county. The city offers up to $5,000 over a 25-month period to be put toward student loans, and costs of living that are considerably lower than the national average (Ohio’s median home value is $130,900, nearly a full $100,000 cheaper than it is nationally; the average two-bedroom apartment in the Buckeye State costs $300 below the national average). Hamilton is banking on a combination of student loan assistance and generally cheaper living to lure job applicants and new employees into town.

77 counties across Kansas

Dozens of counties – and private employers in those counties – across Kansas offer student loan repayment benefits for workers. To qualify, applicants need to be sponsored by either their employer or the county itself; that sponsor will fund half of their repayment, while the state picks up the other half. As of 2018, there were 58 employers across the state sponsoring their workers for student loan assistance, and in 2017 the state paid out over $2 million to fund residents’ student debt repayments. Over 2,000 Kansas-born residents have since returned to their home state because of this benefit, many of them working in education and healthcare. And of the 3,400 applications submitted for the program, over one-third were from people moving into Kansas from out of state, proving that the promise of student debt assistance can be a powerful recruiting tool for employers outside of the biggest metro areas.

Student loan repayment benefits don’t just provide debt relief for struggling graduates and young professionals; they’re also powerful recruiting tools in the hands of employers looking for a new competitive edge. If you’re an employer in Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis or Detroit, contact Vault today to learn more about how our student loan assistance platform can add a new level to your HR strategies.  

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How Student Loan Repayment Can Transform HR

HR has a reputation that, unfairly, casts a shadow over all the good it does. One of the factors driving that rep is this long-held view of HR being a cost center: that it takes up more money and resources than it actually gives back to the company. And because of that, HR has often struggled to highlight the value it brings to the company.

After all, at the end of the day, HR is all about investing in people: recruiting, interviewing, training and educating and providing benefits that help with retaining the best employees. Good employees drive good business for the company, and you don’t get good employees without a sturdy HR department in place. That might seem like a no-brainer, but the fact is that some of this value is not always clear to the C-suite. Employee benefits, for instance, are typically seen as costs because, well, they are literally costs; and those black-and-white numbers can speak for themselves to a cost-conscious CFO.

It’s not enough to just believe that HR programs and initiatives actually provide value; that value has to be demonstrated clearly enough so that those who might look down at HR as a cost center are set straight. HR has to be able to show that what it does has a positive impact on not just employee productivity, but overall revenue growth and profit.

They also have to prove it to the employees and prospects that HR is pursuing. When you’re dealing with an extremely competitive job market, one that has employees – especially millennial-aged ones – looking for the exit door in the near future because they’ve got better offers lined up, a robust benefits package is absolutely key for HR to be able to prove value to both the workers and the higher-ups.

Sitting at the heart of that robust benefits package: student loan repayment.

From cost center to profit center

Health insurance and a 401(k) program are likely the first things that come to mind when asked about what benefits employers should, and do, provide. And fittingly, they’re also the top two most in-demand benefits from employees themselves. But #3 on that list? Student loan repayment.

It’s easy to see why a CFO’s first impression of offering student loan repayment as a benefit might draw eyerolls. After all, if HR wants to shake off its rep as a cost center, how does investing more money into a student loan program help?

But consider the big picture: over half of employees want a student loan repayment perk at their workplace, yet only 4 percent of companies actually offer it. Simple supply and demand applies here. When you’ve got that big a gulf between the number of workers who want and need student loan repayment help, and so few companies providing it, being one of the few who does provide it offers a massive competitive advantage.

And that’s how HR makes the jump from cost center to profit center. Because by integrating student loan repayment services into your benefits packages, HR can jump to the head of the pack in the marketplace, offering a lucrative perk for attracting new employees and retaining current ones alike. This in turn helps generate new revenue from those employees as well as cut down on the amount of spend needed for recruiting and retention efforts.

Redefine your reputation as a profit center by partnering with Vault. Our student loan repayment platform helps provide exactly the kind of workplace perk that employees are calling out for, offering a new way for HR to boost employee retention and recruiting, and drive new business value.

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The Benefits Mismatch: What Employers Provide vs. What Employees Want

In our last blog post, we talked about how in spite of – and actually because of – a generally strong economy and job market over the last several years, a significant number of Millennial employees are expected to leave their current jobs over the next year or two. Given that hiring costs over $4,000 per employee, this kind of turnover can take a significant bite out of any company’s bottom line. But, by introducing student loan repayment services into their benefits packages, HR teams can make better plays for keeping those Millennials from jumping ship anytime soon.

A 2017 American Student Assistance survey makes this crystal clear: 86 percent of Millennial employees said they would give their employers a 5-year commitment if offered student loan repayment benefits. And yet despite that, only 4 percent (!) of employers have implemented any kind of student loan assistance benefits.

When these benefits are so highly in demand by employees, businesses that aren’t making the effort to bridge the gap between what they offer and what these employees want are effectively pushing their people away to competitors who will offer student loan repayment.

What Millennials want: Health insurance, a 401(k) match and student loan assistance

That survey, which polled over 500 workers between the ages of 22 and 33 for their thoughts on workplace benefits, also found that:

In this area, HR departments are well behind the curve and employee turnover continues to increase as—especially—Millennials leave their current roles for greener pastures and better financial prospects.

That’s why we do what we do at Vault. If HR needs a refresh of their recruiting and retention strategies, and if Millennial employees are saying that student loan assistance would be what entices them to go to or stay at a job, that’s where we come in: to help bridge that gap, giving employers a leg-up in keeping the best employees and giving employees a new tool toward achieving debt defiance.

Both employers and employees win when companies modernize their benefits programs to include student loan repayment programs. Ask us today about how Vault’s student loan repayment solution can be used to attract and keep the best talent.

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What HR Can Do to Keep Millennial Employees from Heading for the Exits in 2019

For the past two years, we’ve heard endless metrics describing a great job market. Unemployment is down. Job creation has been consistently strong. The labor market is the tightest it’s been in a decade. And yet despite all that, there’s still a good chance that a significant number of employees at your company will think about leaving their positions this year.

While a good economy might be good for business, it can be less than great for employee tenure. Last December, nearly 3.5 million workers in the U.S. quit their jobs. That keeps pace with the 2.4 percent of workers who quit between July and September 2018 – the fastest rate of Americans quitting their jobs since 2001. In a market as strong as the one we see now, opportunities that pay more, offer better benefits and reduce commute times are too attractive for many mid- and entry-level employees to pass up. If employees don’t feel obligated by economic circumstances to stay in one place, they’ll be more willing to look at other places to work.

This is especially true for Millennials, who are three times more likely than all previous generations to switch jobs regularly. A Glassdoor survey released in 2017 found that as many as 66 percent of working millennials will leave their current employment by 2020. A Deloitte study last year pegged that number at 43 percent.
At the same time Millennials are weighing job hopping, they’re also staring at $1 trillion in student loans. Not only is that more student debt than any other generation, but it also outweighs any other kinds of debt (like mortgages) that Millennials have accrued. And therein lies one crucial incentive for Millennials to either change jobs or stay put – depending on what their employer is offering on that front.

Student loan repayment provides a unique, stabilizing force for younger workers

The 2018 Deloitte survey highlighted the growth of the gig economy as an attractive alternative option for Millennial workers; 62 percent said they saw the gig economy as a viable, alternate route in lieu of full-time employment, and 57 percent of junior employees said they’d be interested in taking on short-term work over full-time employment. At the same time, the study also highlighted Millennial workers’ drive to know what financial benefits they can expect for staying in the long run with an employer as a key area that companies can build their retention strategy on.

Student loan repayment services tick off both of these boxes.

By providing a new workplace incentive for contributing to their employees’ student loan debt, employers can:

Are you an HR professional looking for new ways to benefit your employees and differentiate your company from the competition? Vault’s student loan repayment service offers a cost-effective workplace benefit that can improve employee recruitment and retention. Contact sales@vault.co to learn more.

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Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness not living up to its hype?

When the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program was first introduced in 2007, at first glance it seemed like a pretty sweet deal. Student loan debt holders who worked at either a federal, state or local agency or 501(c)(3) nonprofit for at least 10 years, while making 120 qualifying payments on their student loans during that time, would have the remainder of their debt balance forgiven. You’d have millions of Americans incentivized to enter into public service, while – eventually – freeing them from the financial burdens of their student debt.

But, now that we’re actually 10 years into the program and the first wave of applicants are expecting their loans to be forgiven, we’re seeing that PSFL is not proving to be all it was first cracked up to be. With so few successful accepted applications, it’s clear that the program is not benefitting loan holders as they had hoped.

Consider these numbers from the Department of Education:

Out of nearly 50,000 student loan borrowers who applied, only 420 have been approved and then only half of those have actually had their remaining loans forgiven. Two-hundred out of 50,000. Half of 1 percent.

When your mission statement is to forgive student loan debt after a decade of public service, and your success rate is half of 1 percent, there is clearly room for improvement.

Breaking down what’s behind the rejections

Incentivizing people into public service is a great idea on paper, but it only works if there’s an actual incentive at the end of the tunnel. Compounding the problem is that there isn’t an easy way to determine if you’re even eligible for the program before you devote a decade of your life to it. Applicants can spend years in a public-sector gig only to learn near the end of it that they’re not actually eligible for loan forgiveness. For over 99 percent of Americans who took up PSLF’s offer 10 years ago, nearly all of them are now getting the bait-and-switch treatment.

Communication may be an issue. One of the requirements that applicants may have failed to meet is  making 120 qualifying payments over the decade. While the Department of Education’s numbers did not parse out how many of these rejections were due to failing to make that number of payments, the requirement itself raises another hurdle for applicants; it’s not just a decade of public service AND student loan payments during that period that get your balance forgiven, but a specific number of payments over that period, which consequently may end up taking longer than 10 years to make. There’s a communications gap that is evidently creating problems for applicants years later.

Vault can help student loan borrowers understand options for their situation

For some, PSLF is a great option. For others: buyer beware. Navigating the waters of PSLF is not impossible, but it is challenging and complicated. Vault can help you evaluate all your options and map out upfront all of the potential hurdles of going this route, to help avoid the possibility of any surprises coming your way over 10 years and 120 payments later.  

Vault works with your company’s HR team to provide employees with debt-defiant student loan repayment. No tricks, no bait and switch: this is a real workplace benefit that helps you to hire and retain the best talent by contributing to employees’ student loans now, not in 10 years.

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Student Loans Force Employees to Leave Billions in 401(k) Dollars on the Table

For decades, 401(k) plans have been a staple of workplace benefits programs. Employees are given an outlet to contribute a percentage of their salaries into their retirement nest egg, and to sweeten the deal – and help retain those employees for the long haul – employers will chip in some of their own money into those plans, often matching the employee’s contribution.

Some of the most recent data shows that employers really want their employees to enroll in their 401(k) programs. In 2016, 71 percent of employers said they were likely to either increase or dramatically increase their contributions to employee 401(k) plans. That same year, the average company’s 401(k) matching contribution rose nearly a full point, to 4.7 percent of employee salaries from 3.9 percent the previous year. Major brands like Visa and Aflac have also made waves for how significantly they’ve scaled up their 401(k) match programs, with Visa announcing this year they would increase their match levels by 200 percent, and raise their match limit from 3 percent to 5 percent.

And yet, many employees still aren’t really biting. In 2017, the take-up rate for employees contributing to their 401(k) plans was just 69 percent.  That number might sound big on its own, but it also means that 31 percent of employees declined to take up their employers on their 401(k)-match offer. That’s leaving money on the table – and not just small change, either, but collectively around $24 billion! And that adds up on an individual level, coming out to over $1,300 per employee and around $43,000 per plan over 20 years.

At a time when one-third of Americans have less than $5,000 saved for their retirement, why in the world are so many working people essentially walking away from free money to help financially support their post-career lives?

Student loans are a main culprit. The burden of student loan debt in this country has risen to such crippling levels of unaffordability that working- and middle-class people are having to devote more and more of their paychecks to their monthly loan payments over their 401(k) plans. When the choice comes down to today’s student loans or tomorrow’s financial future, for millions of people they’re forced to go with the former.

As citizens of the richest country in the world, millions of Americans, young and old, male and female, of all racial backgrounds, should not be forced to make this trade-off. We should not have to mortgage our futures on trying to make ends meet in the present. And with the IRS’ new ruling allowing employees who are making student loan payments to earn their company’s contribution to their 401(K), those workers can now get back on the path to a steady financial future.  

Vault is working hard to make this false choice a thing of the past. By working with employers to help pay down employees’ student loan debts, Vault is empowering employees to become debt defiant, free up their hard-earned dollars for their 401(k) plans rather than their student loans and take back control of their financial futures.

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How the Student Debt Crisis is Stifling the American Dream

Paying for college today means needing to take out an extreme amount of student loans, and the impact from the student loan debt crisis is not being felt equally.

Ever since the 1950s, the concept of the American Dream has been grounded in a few basic, but pretty universally understood ideas: get a well-paying job, buy a home and a car, start a family. If you go to school and work hard, the rest of these milestones will fall into place for you.

Maybe in 1958 that was already an overly rosy idea. In 2018, it’s practically laughable.

Today’s Americans – particularly Millennials and new college graduates – have entered an economy where not only is that American Dream not guaranteed in the slightest, but the deck is effectively stacked up against them. To succeed in today’s economy, you need a four-year college education just as a baseline requirement for so many job openings. But getting that degree means paying for college at a time when tuition is getting more expensive every year. Paying for college today means needing to take out an extreme amount of student loans.

How extreme? This year, the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. hit $1.5 trillion. That’s a daunting number in its own right; when you consider that it’s a 150 percent increase over just a decade ago, it becomes clear that student debt in this country has very quickly reached crisis levels.

Today, three-quarters of student debt holders said their loans have impacted their ability to buy a home. In that same survey, over 40 percent say their loans have influenced their decision to delay starting a family. These are some of the basic building blocks of what we think of as the American Dream, and for millions of people they are becoming increasingly out of reach because of the very education they pursued to help achieve that dream.

Worse still, the impact from the student debt crisis is not being felt equally.    

Although 60 percent of student debt holders took out federal loans, black students were overwhelmingly more likely – 78 percent – to need them. Compare that to white students, where just 58 percent – below the overall average and 20 points fewer than black student loan holders – needed to take out federal loans for college.

In an economy where black students are 44 percent more likely to take out student loans than their white peers, and being set up to graduate with more debt than white students, how can we say college is helping to level the playing field and give all students – regardless of race – an equal opportunity at their futures?

Statistics like these are all the more reason why employers today need to put a higher priority on incorporating student loan repayment services into their employee benefits packages.

Vault’s student loan repayment options can not only give employers a powerful new tool for recruiting and retaining employees, but also provide those employees with the debt defiant relief they need to get out from under the crush of student loans and reclaim their future.  

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STUDENT LOAN GENIUS NAMES SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR AS CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

Vault (formerly known as Student Loan Genius), an employee benefits platform that positions companies to recruit and retain top talent by enabling them to repay employee student loan debt, announced today the appointment of Romy F. Parzick as Chief Operating Officer (COO).

“Parzick’s expertise combined with her track record for driving social change and leveraging top talent for high-impact results makes her a key addition to the Student Loan Genius leadership team,” said Matt Beecher, Chief Executive Officer of Student Loan Genius. “We are confident her background in payments, financial services, and customer experience will make her an invaluable partner to organizations within the Student Loan Genius portfolio.”

According to the Federal Reserve, more than 44 million Americans collectively carry $1.5 trillion in student debt as of the first quarter of 2018, and that number is expected to rise to 75 million employees and $3 trillion by 2027. Today major companies like New York Life, Ralph Lauren and Mastercard offer Student Loan Genius to differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace. Effective immediately, Parzick will assume responsibility for operational excellence across Student Loan Genius with a focus on scaling backbone operations including client relationships, customer success, new customer implementation, and end-user adoption.

“I’m excited and motivated to help lead a company with such a galvanizing mission,” said Parzick. “As educational debt continues to mushroom, employees often have to delay important investments like retirement contributions, which in turn creates greater social issues in our economy. Our platform enables our partners to attract and retain a top-notch workforce by improving the financial health of their employees.”

Prior to her appointment, Parzick led operations and client experience for the commercial division of NetSpend, a leading prepaid card provider serving consumers who do not have access to traditional bank accounts. Previous experience also includes her thought-leadership, research, and consumer advocate initiatives at the Center for Financial Services Innovation and her role as as Executive Vice President of a leading Community Development Financial Institution. Parzick holds an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and a bachelor of science in Industrial Management from Carnegie Mellon University. In addition, she is a Fellow with the Aspen Institute’s First Movers, a program for accomplished innovators who are creating new products and services that fuse business success with positive social and environmental impacts.

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Why your employees aren’t using your 401(k)

RYAN GARDNER  |  JULY 5, 2018

EMPLOYER INSIGHTS

A 401(k) is a great way to build a retirement fund, especially if your company is willing to match the employee’s input. This should mean most if not all employees should take advantage of it and use it right?

Some employees, especially those that are recent graduates, may not use it due to large outstanding student loans. In fact, this is the case for many employees.

THE BURDEN OF STUDENT DEBT

Student loan repayment plans are as important to recent graduates as access to a 401(k) plan. This makes sense because as many as 70 percent of graduates have some amount of student debt. With astronomically high numbers like these, it’s no wonder that some employees find it hard to adequately add to their retirement funds while making loan payments.

Additionally, some states have harsh punishments for unpaid student loans. Defaulting on payments can lead to serious drops in credit scores and it can even limit job opportunities and careers.

CORPORATE CONTRIBUTIONS AND SOLUTIONS

Helping employees pay off their student debts with student loan repayment plans is a great way to help recent graduates pay off their debts and allow them to invest more money into their 401(k) account. Moreover, this type of program increases employee recruitment, retention, and loyalty.

Since 401(k) plans are a way for companies to help workers prepare for their retirement, student loan repayment plans can be treated similarly. In fact, the idea that student loan repayment could one day be as important as a 401(k) plan isn’t that far-fetched. This line of thought has been adopted by many companies and is growing in popularity. The majority of job seekers under the age of 30 are even more likely to accept a job that offers student loan repayment plans.

As the national student loan debt continues to grow past $1.4 trillion, there could conceivably be a day where a student loan repayment plan is valued as highly as a 401(k) retirement plan. This is exactly why we want to form a partnership with your company that helps you and your employees by providing you the guidance and tools you need with this benefit. If you are looking for a way to implement a student loan repayment plan in your company or want more information, get in touch.

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HR Need to Know: Save money by addressing real employee needs

With total student debt nearing $1.5 trillion in the US, recent graduates are looking for ways to make extra money to pay back their debts. Many people take second jobs, weekend gigs, and side hustles just to help pay back their massive debts.

CareerBuilder found that about 32 percent of workers work a second job to help pay off their student debt.You can save your company money and time by addressing employees’ needs and increasing retention rates. First though, you need to be aware of what employees want.

EMPLOYEE NEEDS

Companies take many different approaches to entice employees to joining their workforce. Amazon experimented with implementing a 30-hour work week to help reduce burnout among employees, and Netflix even started giving one year of leave for new parents. However, these extra creative perks may not be as enticing as you might assume.

New graduates searching for jobs look for their ability to pay back their loans first. With this in mind, companies need to focus more on providing student loan benefit plans. Student loan benefit plans are one of the most enticing ways to draw employees and keep them long term, and many companies like New York Life and Mastercard have already caught on to the trend.

COMPANY BENEFITS

By providing long-term student loan benefit plans, like Student Loan Genius’ direct loan contribution plans, companies can reduce turnover and keep employees longer. Some independent studies report that losing an employee can cost between 1.5 and two times that employee’s salary. Add this to the cost of finding and training new employees, which can be as high as 25% (depending on your industry’s turnover rate), and the total losses can skyrocket quickly. If you focus on more impactful benefits packages, you can reduce costs for both losing existing employees and hiring new ones. The decrease in turnover will eventually lead to a dramatic return on investment for your company.

When hiring new employees, it’s important to keep in mind what is most important to them. In the current economic state, student debt is one of the biggest concerns. By providing the right solution to this widespread issue, you can help potential employees while reducing costs for your company.

We know HR teams’ focus is on helping employees have the best experience possible at the company, and our goal is to make sure you have this same experience when working with Student Loan Genius. We are dedicated to helping your company achieve the desired ROI. We want to partner with your company and work toward your goals with you.

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